Photo: Two little boys observing safe sea creatures to touch and such. Walking into the aquarium for free is joy enough. Being able to share a morning at the aquarium with a dear friend and her son makes it infinitely better.
Ask and you shall receive, ya’ll.
I wrote my whiny post on Monday and I got not less than three offers for bailout opportunities. One friend even sent me a whole list of local things to do to keep sane. When my dear friend Sheri texted with an offer to hang out at the aquarium, I bit my lip. “It’s gonna be ridiculous in there! It’s vacation week!”
“It’s not crowded early. We always do the aquarium early!”
Welp. I got my boys up at 6:30 this morning, rode in with The Husband so we could park the van at his job for free, hopped three trains and relearned my MBTA skills, and made it to the Aquarium at 8:52 this morning. The boys, as you can imagine, were absolutely thrilled. They sprang out of bed, they were dressed in a snap, they scarfed down breakfast and they flew to the van.
I’ve gotta say, I was pretty nervous about it all. The last time we were on a big city trip together, the boys were in the double stroller. Control was simple and easy. I’ve got two boys who will listen, but who are still constantly in motion. I was worried about the running off, the getting lost, the turning around and having one child disappear… I know I can trust myself to keep calm and keep things under control, but… you know… the boys are little chaos monsters. They don’t know order. They don’t understand. And this was a trip that required three trains during rush hour. And then the aquarium, which is huge and can get crazy. Add hot pot lunch afterward, which meant more trains to Chinatown… My anxiety was real.
Here is what I learned today: first of all, trust the former teacher skills. Trust the Mommy Voice. Trust the urban navigation skills developed along the way. Trust the kids will listen, even when excited. Trust they’ll stop and hold your hand and be the boys you expect them to be. Trust that when your friend is also a teacher, zone parenting can happen even when on the move and even in crowded areas.
It was a really fantastic day, ya’ll. I forgot. I forgot what it’s like to be in the city and let loose and have fun. It was really just wonderful.
We left the Aquarium around 11, which was crowded by the time we walked out the door. Just chaos. And the line to get in extended all the way back to the garage by the time we walked out of there. We did that portion of the day perfectly. If you’re local or visiting Boston and want to do the New England Aquarium, do get the membership (it pays for itself almost immediately and you get to bring friends, which is always awesome!) and do go right when it opens. Also, do go to both of the touch tanks. They are wonderful and the children love them. Finally, do talk to the people who work there. Shout out to Hannah, who was super nice and patient with my boys today. They staff members are knowledgeable and friendly, and that makes all the difference sometimes.
Instead of getting back on the train to head to Chinatown for lunch, we decided to walk the greenway, which is a straight shot down to the Chinatown gate. I didn’t know that until I took the walk, which was very pleasant on the sunny day and full of sights for three energetic boys. There were moments of nervousness as we crossed busy streets, but they were fine. Sheri’s son, who is 3, did his best to keep up with my two older boys. He did a pretty great job, and my boys were inclusive and kind, which made me very proud.
And then, the true highlight of the day, was hotpot in Chinatown which is just… oh my God. I haven’t had hotpot in years. I actually own a pot and have done it on my own before, but hotpot is best when shared with friends. It also takes a lot of prep and a special sauce I’ve never been able to recreate on my own (or find at HMart). So this was a rare, super-rare, almost better than ramen (almost), must do it again really soon treat.
Minor did the “cooking”… choosing to throw all the ingredients in the pot for all the rest of us to fish out. Major was the adventurous one, trying out just about everything we ordered, including fish paste, crayfish, squid, fish dumplings, meatballs, and beef tongue. Oh, and shrimp with the head still on. He had a blast with those!
The purest joy comes when spending time with friends, exploring new places, and eating great food. Kindness after kindness in the middle of a long vacation week makes all the concerns and annoyances melt away. I am sitting here with a stiff back (we walked a lot today), and a full belly and a happy heart. I’m praying, very sincerely, that the boys sleep well past 8 tomorrow!
I have a super special surprise for ya’ll on Friday! Can’t eveeeen wait to post my Quiet Thoughts. See you then!